Author Interview: Helen Ross
Last day of Authorpalooza, folks. I didn't think this day would come so soon, and then, next week, we start the madness that I call Giveawaypalooza. Can you imagine how time passes us by faster and faster? It's already April in my part of the world. Didn't we just welcome the New Year? Anyway, while I puzzle over the Space/Time continuum, let's get to know our author for the day.
About the Author:
Born in Melbourne, Australia (nee McKenzie) Helen has always loved drawing, arts and crafts but since her teens, had always felt that there was something in her trying to get out. A passion. And in her search for ‘that niche’ Helen has tried most things.
But it was a gorilla named Lulu that set her on the path of a poet/writer. As part of a drama assignment, Helen had to perform a piece about a gorilla. So she penned her first poem, ‘Lulu the Gorgeous Gorilla’. Helen has been writing ever since.
In 2006 Helen self-published two children’s picture books, Ten Yellow Bananas and Santa is in Our Chimney.
Her latest releases include Bubble Gum Trouble and other Giggle Poems (2009) and 10 Yellow Bananas (2010 - rewrite of 2006 edition) – both published by Little Steps Publishing, Division of New Frontier, and illustrated by Dee Texidor.
Helen has also had giggle poems for children published in a book for the kids at the Namara District School in Fiji (2009).
She has also written giggle poetry for Cherububble (Primary/Early childhood education on-line resource), written articles for Australia Bookseller and Publisher magazine, and had a number of self publishing articles published online. Published material also includes articles, and poems published in anthologies, magazines and online websites.
About the Novel:
This charming reverse counting rhyme of teddy bears that are stolen by ten bananas goes hilariously down the number chain, through all types of fruit A colourful and creative tale ending in cooperation and friendship. (synopsis by Dennis Jones & Assoc. Distributor)
1. When did you decide to start writing?
As a primary teacher, in my early twenties, I enjoyed making up stories with my pupils.
But my love of writing really began in my mid twenties (over 25 years ago now). As part of acting classes I was attending at the time, I had to write and perform a piece about an animal, as selected by a ‘lucky dip’. My animal was the gorilla, so I wrote my first poem, Lulu, the Gorgeous Gorilla. I really enjoyed the process and received rave reviews.
Then, sometime after, due to a change in personal circumstances, I started neglecting my drama classes and spending time alone writing ‘heart felt’ poetry. Then humorous children’s verses literally began somersaulting into my head, and the writing bug well and truly hit.
2. What is your genre and why did you decide to write a novel in it?
At the present time, most of my writing falls into the picture book category. I first wrote a poem titled ‘Ten Yellow Bananas’ around 1993/94, as part of a collection of giggle verses. When I decided to self publish, to start the ball rolling and get my work out there, I thought that ‘Ten Yellow Bananas’ would work as a stand alone picture book. It was a quirky reverse counting poem that appealed to children’s quirky sense of humour. After its release in 2006, and subsequent excellent sales, positive feedback, and my growth as a writer/poet, I wanted to make Ten Yellow Bananas more commercially appealing. So in 2010 it was published by Little Steps publishing, Division of New Frontier, a well respected Australian publishing company. The title changed to 10 Yellow Bananas with new illustrations, verse changes, and inclusion of a moral (forgiveness and co-operation). But I also write short stories (children and adult fiction), articles for community and children’s magazines, as well as articles for online resources.
3. Were you worried about the word count of your work?
Writing text for a picture book is actually harder than a lot of people realise. Every word is important, especially working within the standard 32 page picture book format And because this is a rhyming text, the rhyme and metre were also of utmost importance.
4. Do you have any writing quirks and what are they?
Like many writers/poets I have pads and pens everywhere. I always have a pad or two, and pens in my handbag and often stop in shopping aisles jotting down ideas, little rhymes, or expressions that tumble into my head, or that I might hear from people passing by. Pads and pens are also beside my bed, in my kitchen, in the toilet (not the toilet bowl) and in my car. Ideas can tumble in my brain at any time.
5. If you can describe your novel in one word, what would it be and why?
In regards, to my latest children’s picture book - Quirky.
6. How did you decide on the title and what does it mean?
The book was easy to title, as the book follows the trail of ten naughty bananas. However, the original version was titled, Ten Yellow Bananas but it was Dee Texidor, the illustrator for the latest version who designed the cover as 10 Yellow Bananas. I think this works better as it is a counting book.
7. What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your novel?
My readers are primarily young children, teachers and parents. I hope that the children will enjoy the bright, bubbly and quirky pictures, and the story. It has educational value (reverse counting book), and great for teachers and parents to discuss healthy eating, colours and the importance of co-operation and forgiveness. But if it brings a smile or laughter to the readers/listeners whilst aiding in their literacy development and a love of books, then I am very happy.
8. Tell us a little about your road to publication.
In 1989/1990, after moving to Brisbane, I began a correspondence Diploma in Writing course with ‘The Writing School’ (formerly NSW Writing School). I began entering competitions and had some of my ‘heart-felt’ poems and humorous children’s poems published in poetry anthologies. In 1993, I won first prize (Children’s poetry category) in the OZ waves Award and University of Queensland Press Book Prizes for my humorous poem, Magpie Mania (under pen name, Jean Ross).
Then around that time, within a period of about three months, I had written approx. 120 humorous poems, and some short stories.
Not wanting the possibility of spending months or years sending manuscripts to publishers and receiving rejection slips in the mail, I published my first book, Ten Yellow Bananas in March 2006 and followed up with, Santa is in the Chimney in September of that year.
My subsequent networking, appearances at Writers’ festivals and growth as a poet/writer brought me into contact with Little Steps Publishing, Division of New Frontier and they published Bubble Gum Trouble and other Giggle Poems (2009) and 10 Yellow Bananas (new version, pub. 2010).
Other Published works include:
Giggle poetry published in Cherububble (Primary/Early childhood education on-line resource), www.cherububble.com
Early 2009, five of my giggle rhyming poems published in Books For Fiji, presented to the children at Namara District School in Fiji
Articles in Australia Bookseller and Publisher magazine,
Heart-felt poetry published in anthologies.
TAFE telemarketing and course module writing (Medical terminology and Call centre telemarketing).
Assessment writing for OLI (Open Learning Institute) Medical terminology Distance course
Freelance education module writing for Education Resources (Int) P/L
Articles for international self publishing websites.
Magazine article writing for community and children’s reading magazines.
Blog at: http://misshelenwrites.wordpress.com
9. What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?
Work at your craft, and enjoy the journey. Write because you love to write, and don’t focus on wanting to be published. That will come. Look at entering competitions, courses, and writing regularly.
Children's books are just as important as novels. They are the cornerstone that teaches our kids a multitude of things, chief among them the love for reading. So, a big hug and thanks to you, Helen, for allowing us into your life as a writer. You are always welcome here at Reads, Reviews, Recommends.
If you want to know more about Helen Ross, you can click on the links below:
Web: http://www.misshelenbooks.com (showcases her children's books)